Making It

From their workshop in south-east London, Weber Industries design and fabricate everything from art installations to interiors and furniture. They recently called upon the talents of Benedict de Silva and Art. Department to collaborate on the design of their new website and visual identity—we caught up with the team to find out more...

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From concrete fishing boats to brass sculpture and Buckminster Fuller-inspired steel pavilions, the resourceful folks at Weber Industries work on a fascinating and diverse range of design and fabrication projects. Collaboration is key to their practice, so when the time came to commission a new website and visual identity, they were looking for a design team with a similarly open approach. “We came to Art. Department through web designer Benedict de Silva, who we had approached to pitch for the development of our new website,” explains Gavin Weber, Director of Weber Industries. “Together, they put together an exciting and convincing proposal for a re-brand that embodied the character of Weber Industries, as well as the future aspirations of our growing business. The design process was very open and creative—our own approach to making puts emphasis on client collaboration, so we really enjoyed the opportunity to work with designers who were open to a dialogue as the branding developed.”

The result of this collaboration is a dynamic logo, identity and website that uses typography and colour to reflect the ethos of Weber Industries and lets their projects speak for themselves. We caught up with Art. Department's Arthur Carey to find out more about how the project came together...

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What were your visual references for the identity, and where did you look for inspiration?
The visual references for the identity came from a range of places. Firstly we familiarised ourselves with the range of output from Weber Industries—with what they make. We noted the artistic quality and the practical quality of the work. The rich visual quality of the machinery, especially the exaggerated dials and on-off switches, was something we thought might be an interesting to investigate further in the studio. More specifically, the exacting nature of the typography etched into the metal bodywork of some of the machines themselves tapped into a broader obsession we have with the typographic language of interface and production.

The space itself is so inspiring. Seeing the late afternoon the sun pour into the space, beautifully lighting the machinery and materials—from our very first visit it became clear that we would want to commission some photography of the space for the brand. We noted the physicality and theatre inherent with working in three dimensions. The way the workshop was organised and items stored—it all left an impression.

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Tell us about the typefaces used throughout the identity—what informed your choices here?
We were keen to identify a typeface to use throughout the website which would serve as the voice of the site. The navigation, search module, captioning and prompts would all appear in it, contrasting with when the voice of the Weber Industries team would come though in another typeface in project titles, stand-firsts and case study texts.
In initial tests it became clear that monospaced fonts worked well for us at these small sizes, and certainly echoed something of the dials and gauges from the machines in the physical workshop. For the monospace we used Colophon’s Space Mono and paired it with Christian Schwartz’s FF Bau. The latter draws upon the richest of design histories and visually sat well with the monospace. As a set, the typography brought something of the typographic language of industry and the heritage of production whilst chiming well with the sense of contemporary making in the workshop.

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The new logo has several different variations—how did this idea come about?
We believed that in order for the logo to be successful, it should work hard to capture the experience of visiting and inhabiting the workshop. We explored many ways of doing this and arrived at an idea where the logo had various iterations, whilst remaining recognisable from distance as a W, for Weber Industries.

The wordmark formed one of the bars of the W. From version to version, the logo as a form is reassuringly familiar; suitably identifiable but undeniably playful with its use of the space it inhabits or presides in. On repeat visits to the studio, the orderly abundance of samples and materials on hand for the design team, all stacked and tidied away, neatly coupled with the experimentation which surrounds you, firmed up our belief that the decisions around the logo were appropriate.

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Can you explain the role that photography plays in the identity, and how you chose the photographer, Owen Richards?
We wanted to show the fascinating mechanised heart of the workshop, but also the human side. Owen has the ability to at one moment be shooting a wide shot of the uninhabited workshop space, and the next to notice an incidental moment where light has fallen across a table, and capture both beautifully. We worked with Owen for his observational quality and for the soul he captures of a space in his images. We knew that the website was required on the one hand to be a tool and a portfolio, but we also wanted it to be able to showcase the space in a way that was sensitive, warm and inviting. These were sentiments you might not usually associate with an industrial space and we knew that capturing this atmosphere would require Owen’s eye.

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Did you learn anything in particular from the project that you'll apply to future commissions?
To always seek a site visit for all future projects, even if they are not for visual identity work. Seeing Gavin and the team in meetings and when they were at work in their space was a delight. Also on a technical note, we used static cling vinyl (the kind that can be reapplied and rearranged over and over) for the logo on the workshop window. What we learned recently is that static-cling vinyl, for all its merits, does not mix well with storms of the magnitude of Storm Doris.

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What are you working on now, and what's next for Art Department?
2017 has been a super year so far. Highlights have been creating a brand and for a new brewery which is set to launch in the spring, and a visual identity and website for a new type foundry with Neal Fletcher, working in collaboration with Aaron Skipper Studio. Coming up later in the year is a visual identity and website for a very special catering outfit—hopefully a site visit is on the cards for that one.

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For the Weber Industries website, as Benedict de Silva explains, “the aim was to create a simple, intuitive interface which conveyed the range of Weber Industries' work, skills and experience both at the level of the team members and as a whole, helping generate new project leads.”

To achieve this, the team came up with tags to apply to the projects on the site, to prompt visitors to explore further. “Our tiered tag system runs through the whole website, linking projects, information and associated tags together to encourage exploration and reinforce the breadth of services offered,” de Silva explains. “The tag system quickly became an important feature from early on in our discussions on how we wanted to approach the interface. It was built with potential for expansion allowing tags to either simply aggregate projects, or be built up with content of their own such as videos, images and downloadable content. Over time it will help make the website a richer, valuable tool both internally and for visitors and clients. 

The utilitarian approach to the interaction on the website drew from the workshop environment with minimal flourish and transitions and just enough movement to convey purpose. Panels and information drawers are used to access further levels of the user interface, for example in search and notifications, allowing the user to dig deeper if they wish.”

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Weber Industries are understandably pleased with the outcome of the project, as Gavin Weber explains:

“Art. Department demonstrated a real investment in the ideas they presented to us. While they were always receptive to our ideas and feedback, they also remained committed to core aspects of the new brand identity they were creating. Their willingness to guide us through their own process gave us a grounded sense of their vision for the brand, and helped us understand the logic behind their design decisions. The integration between website and branding design is integral to the final outcome. The design follows a cohesive logic that successfully articulates the Weber Industries identity.

The feedback from our clients and partners has been excellent. People’s comments about the fresh feel, the playfulness of the dynamic logo, and the clarity of the overall design demonstrates that Art. Department and Benedict de Silva have successfully articulated our business ethos in the new branding. Importantly, Art. Department has given us a brand identity that Weber Industries can grow into. The new design has already had a positive impact on our growing client base, articulating our aspirations as a business and illustrating our unique approach to bespoke fabrication.”

You can take a look around the new website, and explore more of Weber Industries' work, here: